Lesson 12ª







Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (500-420 B.C.)

Anaxagoras is another interesting philosopher of that period. He further developed some of the points already seen by Empedocles.

For Anaxagoras, as a fact, birth and death are nothing more than the  union and separation of some ‘eternal beings’, which would later become the origin of the ‘theory of ideas’ of Plato, as we will see: ‘homeomerias‘.



‘Atomists’ were a group of thinkers which followed the way of thinking of both Empedocles and Anaxagoras to some level. They were mainly Leucippus of Miletus (born in 420 B.C.) and Democritus of Abdera (460-370 B.C.). The originality of their thought lies in the use of the word atom for the first time, in a definition similar to the one we know today. Atomist philosophy is:

  • Multiplicity is native and indestructible.

Atomists attempted to reach an understanding or commitment between the philosophy of Heraclitus and the philosophy of Parmenides. Contrary to what was stated by Parmenides, for Atomists, the 'being' has to be multiple, and still keep his/her own characteristics or qualities. The answer lies in the atom.

  • The ‘atom’ ; need for the immutable
    • Nature identity
    • Action through contact
    • Differences between them: shape, order, position, magnitude, weight
    • Infinity of shapes and combinations.


This finding made of 'atoms' doesn't make any reference to any physics concept as we know today. Actually, it refers to a mystical concept similar to that of the 'numbers' of Pythagoras. However, it is important in the history of thought. As the theories of Empedocles and Anaxagoras, these theories were indirectly or directly a basis for many philosophy concepts which would later be developed by Plato and Aristotle, thus influencing the later evolution of philosophy and science.